Saturday, 3 November 2012

Why Ian Holloway's departure was inevitable

So, it's finally happened. Ian Holloway has left Bloomfield Road after three and a bit seasons in charge to take up the managerial position at Crystal Palace. The rumour mill had been in overdrive for a couple of weeks and it comes as no surprise that Holloway has eventually decided it's time to move on. When linked to the Burnley job, prior to Sean Dyche's appointment at Turf Moor, I wrote a piece for No Nay Never about what might be motivating Holloway to seek a potential exit - I'd like to expand on some of the points raised there to establish some background as to why today's events have come to pass.

As is always the case with football fans of any club, not just Blackpool, fickleness is often the order of the day. In the wake of Holloway's departure just wait for the tide of opinion to turn against our best manager in a generation from a certain cross-section of the Blackpool support. "He's a greedy bastard, he just wants more money for himself," they'll say. "He was losing the plot anyway - it's time to move on," they'll opine. So rather than beat around the bush, why don't we address those points individually?

Is Holloway motivated by money? Does he think he can go and earn more elsewhere? I have no doubt this is the case, but those on their moral high horses to suggest it makes him greedy are forgetting that is what football is all about today. Nobody does anything in football without money being a key factor. It's the nature of the beast and to kick up a fuss about this is a nonsense argument. Other non-financial factors combined can create a situation where discrepancies in money can be overcome, but Holloway must feel these other factors are not in place.

Was Holloway losing the plot? Had his magic started to diminish? Again, quite possibly, yes. An article I wrote for The Two Unfortunates pointed to lessons of past mistakes being revisited - whereas last season Holloway was able to halt the slide that appeared inevitable at Turf Moor, it may not have worked out as well this time around. The policy of a large pool of development players looks completely illogical from the outside looking in, and results since the start of September have been very disappointing. If Holloway has indeed 'lost the plot', then what was the cause? As stated in my contribution to No Nay Never, the integral factor is Holloway's relationship with Karl Oyston.

The Holloway-Oyston relationship is a highly unusual one, littered with contradictions. Holloway would profess to buy into Oyston's frugal ways in one press conference, before having a pop at his chairman's methods in the next. It may be erratic, but it showed that tension has always existed between the pair, regardless of how many times both would try to claim they had a healthy working relationship. Under many constraints, Holloway has arguably over-delivered in each and every season with the club. In terms of the budget provided to him, Holloway had no right to get us promoted in his first season, no right to get us anywhere near safety in his second season and no right to get us anywhere near Wembley last term.

However, there comes a point when one wonders if Holloway feels he can continue to exceed expectations and considers the damage his reputation may suffer should he be unable to do so. Shamelessly quoting my own No Nay Never contribution, "Blackpool’s modus operandi of doing things on the cheap requires the full buy-in of the manager. If Holloway has lost belief or grown tired of the chairman’s methods, then a parting of ways would be a logical outcome." Holloway has made no secret of his frustration at missing out on key targets in recent weeks with several comments highlighting DJ Campbell, Stephen Dobbie and Charlie Austin as players who Blackpool could have signed but refused to sanction the funds.

The issue of funds available must be the biggest bugbear for Holloway, given it was his leadership which took Blackpool to the Premier League and its associated millions. While the owners clawed back their loans and took at least an extra £17.5m on top out of the top flight rewards, Holloway was still asked to largely resort to raiding the bargain bins. The targets he had in mind to keep the Seasiders in the top flight were not delivered by the chairman, nor were the men Holloway wanted to secure an immediate return following relegation.

It's clear Karl Oyston feels players are over-valued, both in terms of fees and wages, and he has spoken out about not wanting money to flow straight out of the club into players' pockets. Yet it is rank hypocrisy when the Oyston family have extracted millions themselves. With this in mind, Holloway clearly has grounds for complaint at the lack of financial backing. Given the club could afford an £11m salary for Owen Oyston and an inflated £6.5m price for some land that the club sold to the Oystons a few years prior for just £650,000 - it is plain wrong to suggest the club could not afford the players who were Holloway's first choices.

Additionally, Holloway must be disappointed with the lack of progress with regards to a new training ground. It was one of his first demands after being appointed, yet despite public assurances from Oyston that a new facility would be provided, there is still nothing in sight. If there was ever a way in which to spend the Premier League windfall to secure a legacy for the club, then a top-rate training facility should have been it. As it is, Holloway has had to make do with a dilapidated and wind-swept Squires Gate - hardly ideal when the squad is as big as it's ever been.

And of course, there's the contract issue - the reason some will be quick to suggest Holloway is making this move out of greed. Holloway has said in recent interviews that he feels his contract is unfair and is too much in Oyston's favour. Given Holloway was happy to sign the contract originally, there should be little room to complain. However, when it seems as if every day is a battle for Holloway, be it trying to keep current players happy, attempt to sign his targets or worry about how training will be conducted in adverse conditions, it may be that it's simply reached the point where Holloway wonders if all this fighting is worth it.

If Holloway feels he's undervalued, and that the chairman is unwilling to budge on any of the issues affecting him, then who can really blame him for wanting to move on? It must be a draining experience and one he felt was no longer worth it. Holloway is not perfect - no manager ever is - and some of his behaviour in the final stages of his tenure hasn't been particularly becoming, but what he has achieved at this club should and will not be forgotten. Whoever follows him has big shoes to fill.

Over the coming week I'll be posting a few articles reflecting on the Holloway years, comprising a look at his seasons in charge, how he did as a manager, the character of the man and the legacy he leaves behind. For now, I would simply like to thank Holloway for the service he has given the club. It hasn't always been a smooth ride, but his best moments by far eclipse any of the rare negative stuff. Ultimately, he simply deserved more from a club he almost single-handedly transformed - a club which now faces uncertain times.


  1. I'm a palace fan and this appeared on my news feed. I have to say, this is an amazingly written piece.

    I have always had a soft spot for your team and town since I had an ill fated love affair with a female from Poulton. However, I have to say, it doesn't seem fair that a club with supporters of such quality, has to endure a chairman/board that lack in passion for the club.

    I honestly believe IH wouldn't of left had he had full backing from your board. I'll be the first to admit I'm glad he did join us, but in a perfect world he shouldn't of left.

    I wish your team the best for the future and here is hoping your next manager will do you proud.

  2. As usual a very good bit of writing and analysis. Spot on. It is so frustrating when you think that relatively small amounts of investment in players would have transformed our fortunes both in the Premiership and last season. But so far KO can point to Grayson; Parkes and Holloway. All fantastic managers and all of whom have over achieved. He probably feels that there will be another one around the corner. Without taking anything away from Ollie, Simon Grayson must be the one that we most to thank for. Getting out of those awful lower leagues with no money; and then he and Tony keeping us out of them. But thanks to Ollie we now look up rather than down. Forever grateful - no hard feelings. Good luck to Ollie - until we play him.

  3. Great Article working under such constraints with so little backing must be sole destroying. After the miracle of getting to the Prem Ollie, the fans, the club deserved so much more.
    With a bit of investment he would have had a great chance to make sustained progress.
    :( So sad but expected

  4. Ian Holloway was being found out he was a lucky manager not a good one.We should have never been promoted to the Premiership the results of other teams aswell as our own just fell into place.He left Blackpool because he realised his inadeguancies as a manager were going to be highlighted.
    Crystal Palace in the longer term are going to be very disappointed in him.

  5. Great intuitive article and as ever cuts through a lot of the wilder accounts and comment on the tinternet. I feel Ollie's success was certainly down to a perfect storm for some part and the subsequent experiences of those involved in the glory year(s) would also suggest the same (Adam, Vaughan, DJ). Ollie worked wonders for the Pool but some of his behaviour (fawning over KO and slagging the fans off) I am afraid will forever taint his achievements. It's a real shame he couldn't figure out and manage a more dignified exit, but this really points to his lack of intelligence and integrity. Alas both qualities in very short supply in football nowadays.

  6. Let me first say what a great read this article is. I agree with everything that's been said here.

    Having been raised in Lytham as a boy, and an ex-South Stand season ticket holder, I consider myself a Blackpool fan still, even though I now live thousands of miles away. I have watched Blackpool from afar and have been amazed at the roller-coaster ride that the last few years have been.

    I believe that Holloway took this club to the English Premier League way before ownership was ready, and probably way before they wanted. The Oyston family have always regarded any business of theirs as a slave to the family and this is no different, and before I get any nay-sayers hammering me for "talking about stuff I know nothing of", trust me, I'm aware of the business acumen of The Oystons.

    Holloway was a special character of almost "cartoon" like status. A media darling, he called a spade a shovel and was prepared to tolerate the Oyston dictatorship provided it produced success, but as with all dictatorships, they end up killing the goose that laid the golden egg.

    Handled properly, Holloway would have stayed. He wasn't someone that was a spender. He was frugal and let's face it, he had an eye for talent. His teams couldn't defend worth a damn but they were very attractive to watch. However, like the rest of us, there comes a point where we realize that we're getting the shaft, and that's where Oyston screwed himself.

    More of an issue now, is where to go from here. Thompson will get the job until the end of the season. Why? Because he comes cheap. Whether he saves the club from relegation is immaterial, because as I said earlier, ownership doesn't care where the club plays, as long as they get "their piece of pie". For me, they have to find a manager whose got the experience to survive in a tough League, but sadly, that same type of personality wouldn't tolerate "Potter" for a minute.

    I picked Blackpool for automatic promotion this year. It's a relegation fight now with the players and coaches completely on their own.

    Again, a great article. So well written in fact that I have linked to it on my own site.

  7. Im a palace fan,I was very surprised to hear that holloway was going to be manager a good choice but i feel he has left Blackpool in the lurch a bit,but whether that was because of the chairman I don't know. He's done the opposite to freedman going from a team in 11th as they were to a team in 4th. I can't understand why freedman left palace,there's more to that than meets the eye,but he's left a good team to go to what I think is a mediochre team,I think with him there must be money involved I may be wrong,but freedman is a palace legend,do holloway has got a lot to follow.

  8. Holloway is a good motivator and took someone else's team and gave them belief. He was unable to sustain that due to his complete lack of tactical ability. The defence has not improved on iota. Out of 40 odd players I reckon anyone could take a chance on one or two being decent. A very lucky manager but once his luck ran out ...............